Dropping my daughter off with Erin every morning is heartbreaking. Not because Angel will cry, she
doesn’t. It’s not even because I believe Erin is horrible to her, because she’s not, she’s amazing and I’m
lucky to have found her. No, the reason I feel dreadful is that I see my daughter coping better than I am.
She unwittingly shames me. I know she misses her mother and her brother, and I know at night when
she really thinks about everything she’s lost; it hits her hard. But mostly, she’s gotten on with her life,
and while I drop her off every morning before I walk into a classroom full of over excited children, I’m
reminded of all I’ve lost. Everything I once had was stolen away from me, through the thoughtlessness
Carianne should be with her in the morning while I ready myself for work. Ensuring she eats her
breakfast, brushes her teeth and combs her hair before strapping on her black patent shoes with the
flashy heels, ready for school. I should be kissing them all before leaving. Knowing they had each other.
Instead, I leave my only daughter in the hands of a woman I barely know, and only because an authority
I spent most of my career despising, says it’s safe to do so. I have no choice but to trust they saw what
was ‘real’ on their 3 yearly visit and not a rose-tinted representation she chose to present.
Carianne was my life, had been since the very first time I met her. Those sparkling green eyes landed on
me and stole my heart right out of my chest. All she really had to do from then was smile and I’d stop
breathing. We met at work; she was a supply teacher, and I was her newly qualified colleague. I
observed her with the children, helping them achieve their goals with such patience. I knew instantly
that she would be a wonderful mother.
Carianne was everything a man could wish for in a wife. She was loving and caring and full of life, with a
giggle that set anyone off around her. We married with our entire lives mapped out ahead of us, and we
tried for a family. Our hearts broke every time we lost that chance. Carianne was destroyed, and a piece
of her heart broke off each time she told me it had happened again. The pressure became too much,
and we decided to look into adoption. Shortly after the initial interview, we found out she was pregnant.
When we held Angel in our arms, everything we ever wanted was delivered to us and we couldn’t have
been happier. As luck would have it, four years later we were blessed with our son, Connor.
Before his first birthday, his life and that of my wife’s was snatched away from me by a sleep-deprived
lorry driver. Angel survived the car crash, but I had to give permission for the doctor to turn off the life-support machine to my wife. She had wanted her organs donating to help someone else, because that’s
just the type of person she was. She always thought of others, even when the worst happened. I allowed
Connor to do his bit too, knowing she would have wanted a part of him to live on, and give someone
else the gift we had so tragically lost.
So, sitting in the car and looking at the house, I need to drop my daughter off at, hurts. It hurts so much
my chest tightens and I have to remember how to breathe. It’s another reminder that things are wrong
in my life. It should never have been this way. It wasn’t on our five-year plan, or even ten. I shouldn’t
need to drop my daughter off with a childminder, so she can get to school on time and we can keep up
this farce called normalcy. There is no normal, only a ‘before’ and ‘after’ my world fell apart.
“Daddy, are we getting out yet?” she whines from the back seat, swinging her legs. I smile, she’s so
impatient. Just like her Mum! “Dad!”
“Yeah, sorry princess. I was day dreaming,” I say unclipping my seat belt. Checking the road first, I open
my door and slam it shut before prising Angel’s open. Once we’re over the road, Angel skips to the
entrance and knocks. I catch up to her as the door opens.
“Hello cheeky, how are you this morning?” Erin beams, bending at the waist to greet Angel.
“Good, Daddy was daydreaming in the car,” she says, running in as though she lives here. Erin laughs at
her eagerness, as she always does. I wonder if it ever gets on her nerves, kids thinking they can just
waltz in to what is essentially her home, but she only looks amused.
“Full of beans, I see,” notes Erin. I chuckle and hand her Angel’s coat and bags.
“Always,” I reply. Erin opens the door to the under-stairs cupboard and hangs Angel’s things up before
closing them back in. Remembering, I chew my lip nervously. I should really have discussed this with Erin
before dropping Angel off, but it’s too late now. “I need to ask you something.”
Turning, she eyes me suspiciously before smiling. “I forgot to tell you. I have parent’s evening tonight. Is
there any chance you could hold on to her for a little longer?”
“Of course, what time till?” she asks laughing at my absentmindedness.
“The last meeting is at 6.30, so I might be just after 7,” I explain. “Is that going to be a problem? If so, I’ll
try to arrange for someone to pick her up?” I ask, worrying about who I should call.
“Tell you what, I’ve only got Angel and Matt. How about I order pizza and get it delivered for 7.30?” she
asks. “That way, you don’t have to cook so late either.”
“I can’t ask you to do that,” I say, shaking my head.
“I’m offering. You’ll be finishing late. I have nothing in for tea, and if you’re here when Angel eats, I don’t
have to worry about nutritional value or allergens and writing temperatures down,” she laughs and I can’t help it. I suppose she has a valid point. I’ll be helping her fill out less paperwork and in return I get
fed earlier. And who doesn’t enjoy pizza?
“Ok, but I’ll pick it up on my way back, that way I can pay,” I say. Erin nods, with an enormous smile on
“Deal,” she laughs.
“Anything you and Matt like in particular?” I ask, turning back to the door.
“Matt likes Margherita. I’ll eat anything, but I love sausage,” She shrugs and then instantly blushes
before turning away. Getting the unintended innuendo, I laugh as she covers her face with her hands. “I
can’t believe I just said that,” she admits, hiding behind her hands. I’m still laughing, because I can’t help
it. I’ve never seen her anything other than polite and professional. This slip has allowed me to see
‘vulnerable’ Erin with a beetroot face. It’s endearing and hugely entertaining. “Right go, before I say
anything else completely inappropriate,” she says, pointing to the door. Still a bright shade of pink. “Let
me die of embarrassment in peace.”
“Ok, see you at seven or thereabouts,” I close the door behind me and walk to the car, shaking my head,
trying to stop the chuckle that escapes. I can’t get her embarrassment out of my head, I hadn’t even
taken it that way until she had changed colour, and it dawned on me exactly what she’d said.
Reaching the school gates, I slow down and press the pin, in to let the gates up. Once I’m parked, I walk
into the back of the school and head for my classroom that I need to prepare today for. I hate parent’s
evening. Whilst I don’t mind telling the good kid’s parents that they’re doing well. The pushy, overachieving parents are annoying. They ask a billion questions about how to improve their kid’s mediocre
brilliance to Einstein brilliance, when in reality they’re scraping by at the national average. I also have to
contend with the parents of children who’d still rather eat their books than write in them. Made clearer
with the amount of complaints I get about homework. But when I receive a badly written note from a
parent telling me their innocent little terrorist is beside himself with worry every night because I raised
my voice, I have to sit behind my desk and try not to lose my cool. They’re idiots, and their kids are
master manipulators. One’s who understand the importance of getting their own way, any way possible,
usually at the expense of my precious time and sanity alongside their parent’s dwindling dignity.
“You’re here early,” I look up from my desk to see Gabby, one of our newest teachers. She’s nice
enough, even though she looks about twelve. I wonder how long she’ll last in this environment, where
everyone judges you by look rather than your actual work load. Kids and parents can be fickle, that’s all
I’m saying. Gabby is a ray of sunshine that I can’t envision existing here for too long. Somehow, they’ll
manage to dampen her spirit and push her out. I’ve seen it happen before, and the school is inferior for
“I have to get a head start, parent’s evening tonight,” I say, lifting a kid’s writing journal to emphasise
“Oh, don’t. I’m bricking it. It’s my first one ever,” She laughs, nervously. “You’ll be fine, I’m sure. At least you’ve only known the little darlings for a month. You can’t have much
bad to say?” I ask, smirking. I know her class and by the look she gives me, so does she. Laughing, she
waves me off and I continue looking through the journal so I can write some notes.
Class starts and ends, and all the kids clearly remember I’m speaking with their parents tonight, so
they’re all on their best behaviour. Which makes me entirely too anxious. They must be hiding
something. I’ve not had a single day, where I’ve not banished someone from the room, pulled a fight
apart or reprimand someone’s language. It seems today they’re acting reservedly. Yeah, right!
The last bell rings for the end of the children’s school day and the beginning of my judgement as a
teacher. Gabby waltzes in and sits on my desk while I rub the white board clean.
“Give me some tips,” She asks, or rather orders.
“What for?” I ask trying not to laugh, she’s clearly nervous, and she needs to stop. Parents can smell fear
the way sharks sense blood.
“The parent’s evening,” she says as exasperated. Chuckling, I turn to witness her pale, drawn face, and
“Horse shit, I’m new, not an idiot,” she replies and I can’t help but smile, she’s something all right.
“If they’re good kids, tell them how proud you are of them. Lightly say where you’d like to work with
them next, so they’re just as good in all areas as they are in their best. If they’re little shits, try to find
something they’re good at, even if it’s comedy and work from there. Give as much info as you can about
their academic achievements, and less about their personalities. Although some parents will ask about
how they interact socially, so be ready for that one. Be concise, without being emotionally impaired. All
you can do is your best Gabby, that’s all anyone can ask,” I advise and she smiles, a little more relaxed
after my general run down.
“Thank you, that really helps,” I shake my head and watch her waltz away with a spring in her step.
When the last parent has gone, my head feels as though it’s made from cotton wool. I stack up the
books and dump them behind my desk, ready for me to organise tomorrow. It’s too late now and the
parents’ evening, as usual, overran. Checking my watch, I realise it’s six fifty. Quickly firing off a text to
Erin, I rush out, so I can get pizza and be back at her place before everyone faints from starvation.
Knocking on the door, she opens it wide and lets me inside. Dumping the pizzas on her kitchen counter,
she retrieves plates. “They smell amazing, I’m starving,” she admits.
“Yeah, sorry about that. Some parents think they need to tell me their life story,” I roll my eyes and she
laughs“Come on, you two. Foods here!” The kids come running through and I lift Angel to choose which one
“Can I have a bit of each?” asks Matt, looking up at me hopefully once I place Angel down.
“Yeah sure, buddy,” I answer. Picking up a slice of each, I place them on the plate Erin offers, then hand
it to Matt. I do the same for Angel, because the second she heard Matt ask, her eyes lit up.
“Take it straight in the front room, I’ll put a film on in a second,” calls Erin.
“In the front room, really?” asks Angel, excitedly.
“Yes,” Laughs Erin. “Just don’t tell the other kids, or they’ll be war,” she says, winking to Angel as she
“I think that might have been more of a dig at me. I don’t let her eat in front of the television,” I inform
“Oh, I’m sorry. I can get her to go up to the table if you’d prefer?” she asks, worrying.
“No. You house, your rules, she knows that.” I answer.
“Are you sure?” she asks, clearly uncomfortable doing anything against what I’ve imposed.
“Absolutely,” I reply with a smile. She takes a breath in and relaxes, something I find strange. Grabbing
another plate, she passes me it and we both pick from what’s left over. Strolling into her front room, I
notice a huge television and sideboards dedicated to children’s toys. Part of me wonders where she
keeps her personal belongings. I take a seat on the sofa at one end while she sits down at the other.
Picking up the control, she searches on-demand. We listen to the kids firing off titles they spy and want
to watch. Instead, she chooses something neither called out for. But five minutes in, and they’re both
mesmerised, so I guess she knew best.
“So, how was your day today?” I ask, watching her fold a slice of pizza up on her plate.
“It was all right,” she shrugs. “I had two babies in, one of which didn’t stop crying. When they went
home, I picked Angel up, and we went to the park. All in all, it’s been a fairly good day.”
“You had a screaming baby all day, and it’s been fairly good?” I ask, sceptically.
“Ok, apart from the screaming baby,” she admits, chuckling.
“I thought my job was hard enough. I don’t think I could manage babies,” I say shaking my shoulders
out, as though it gives me the creeps. She just shakes her head laughing before biting into her pizza.
“At least with my job, I get to play all day. I don’t have to mark books and try to get them to sit still
through a lesson,” she answers.“Yeah, there is that,” I confirm. “Though, I bet you get through a shed load of nappies.” Rolling her eyes,
“Don’t. It’s definitely the worst part of the job, and I swear parents' stuff them at the weekends because
Monday’s are the worst,” She laughs.
“What made you want to open your house up and let a tonne of kids in to destroy it?” I can’t think of
anything worse. Home is my sanctuary.
“Insanity,” She answers, laughing again. “I had Matt, and I only worked short days, but they were over
the lunchtime period. If I wanted to put him into nursery, it meant I had to pay for the morning session
and the afternoon session. My job simply didn’t pay enough. There was no point. I wondered how many
other people found the same thing, so I built this,” she says looking around her, though I doubt she
means the actual house.
“How long you been doing it for?” I ask.
“Since my maternity ended, so it’ll be about four years.”
“How many hours a week do you work?”
“I start about six thirty when I have to go and pick kids up. I normally take the last one home about six in
the evening,” she answers.
“Wow, they’re long days.”
“Yeah, but if I didn’t offer the wrap around care, I’d barely make the mortgage each month,” she admits.
“Does your husband have Matt in the morning?” I ask.
“No, he has to come with me, I’m afraid,” she answers, looking suddenly downtrodden. “Andrew left me
a few months ago, so it’s just me and Matt now.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
“Well, I didn’t exactly broadcast it. It’s not much of a selling point, coming to a childcare service that’s
also a broken home.” I watch her and I can see she’s in genuine pain over the breakup. I can’t believe I
haven’t seen it before, but I don’t really delve into her personal life. She asks about Angel and most
discussions revolve around her and my work for obvious reasons. I’ve never asked her anything personal
“I don’t think your personal life has much to do with anyone else.” I say, hoping to sound encouraging.
“I wish that was true. I even had to announce our marriage break up to Ofsted, so they can take him off
their list of occupants at a registered address. Besides, If I went round telling the parents I was a failure
at my marriage, they might view me differently, probably not trust my judgement anymore and then
where would I be?” she asks shrugging. “Human,” I answer.
“Yeah, well, you probably would because you get it, but not everyone’s like you.” she says, trying to
smile while worrying the crust between her fingers. “He left me for another woman.”
“Wow, that’s er... tough.”
“He said I was only interested in my job and Matt and he didn’t exist anymore. So he started seeing
someone who had time for him.” Her head still hasn’t come up yet, and I feel so sorry for her. Not only
did he do the dirty on her, but he placed all the blame at her feet, that’s a heavy burden for anyone to
“How long has he been gone?”
“He left at Easter,” she says, looking back up to me.
“I can’t believe you’ve been going through all this. You’re so upbeat when you open the door.”
“It’s not the kid’s fault, besides I’m pretty sure the parents don’t want to hear about my problems,” she
answers, stifling a laugh. “She says whilst telling a parent about all her troubles,” I laugh because I can’t
help it, and I really don’t mind her telling me. Part of me is selfishly glad someone else’s life has been
derailed too, not from a malicious stand point, just that it makes me feel less alone.
“I don’t mind, I promise. Gives me something else to think about for a while.”
“Oh, my god!” she says, slamming her hands up to her face. “I’m so sorry. I’m sat hear complaining
about my husband when you went through what you did?”
“Doesn’t make your drama any less traumatic,” I reassure her.
“No, but it’s really disrespectful and thoughtless.”
“It’s fine. I promise. The world doesn’t stop because I lost my wife.”
“I know, but it’s tragic and my problems don’t seem anywhere near as important.”
“They are to you,” I reassure her and she smiles back, shyly. I’m sure she doesn’t believe me, but I do
understand her predicament. Losing my wife doesn’t change my empathy for her situation. Neither is
ideal, but we’re not in competition either.
“Would you like to share a bottle of wine?” she asks suddenly.
“Sure,” seeing her walk away, I feel such sadness for what she’s going through. At least my wife didn’t
have a choice to leave me. Her husband did. And I can’t imagine how much more painful that must be.
Observing the kids laid on the floor, watching the film. I notice them giggle at the same funny moments,
looking at each other with wide-open mouths when something they find shocking is said, before
chuckling. Anyone would think they were siblings the way they mirror each other. Handing me a glass, I sip it and stare at the kids as they watch Nemo’s Dad swimming around for his son.
I wonder if she’s even thought of the connotations of this story? When she sits back down, she watches
the kids and smiles when they laugh. She certainly enjoys watching the kids enjoying themselves, and
now I understand why she does what she does. Nursing her wine, she crosses her legs and turns to me
as though she knows I’m looking at her. Clearing my throat, I decide to ask about Matt’s Dad, since he’s
enthralled with a film about a Father trying to find his son. “Does he see his Dad?”
“Andrew phones me when he’s not busy and takes him for pizza or Maccie’s. So far, he’s only had him
overnight once, and he cried all night for me. He won’t have him again until he’s grown out of it,” she
answers, looking away. She didn’t say it bitterly, but I can hear it in the background. She’s not amused
with his behaviour, but trying to rise above it.
“Is that what he said?” I ask, astonished. She nods, keeping her eyes on the television while she takes
another sip. I can’t help but shake my head, because with everything I’ve been through, it’s Angel that
has forced me to go on. Without her, I’m not sure I’d still be here.